Guilty Pleas in African Terror Plot

April 18, 2012

Courthouse News on April 18, 2012 released the following:

“MANHATTAN (CN) – After jury selection began, two citizens of Mali pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiring to provide material support to foreign terrorist organizations, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Harouna Touré and Idriss Abdelrahman were charged with “agreeing to transport cocaine through West and North Africa with the intent to support the drug trafficking activities of Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (‘AQIM’), and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (‘FARC’). Each of these organizations has been designated by the U.S. Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization,” prosecutors said in a statement.

Touré, 35, and Abdelrahman, 37, were arrested in Ghana in December 2009, with a third defendant, Oumar Issa, who pleaded guilty in November 2011 and has been sentenced to 57 months in prison.

Touré and Abdelrahman face up to 15 years in prison at their sentencings, which are set for July 19 and 20.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Bout Trial Takes A Few Odd Turns

October 28, 2011

Courthouse News Service on October 28, 2011 released the following:

“By ADAM KLASFELD

MANHATTAN (CN) – Viktor Bout’s former associate discussed arms sales, the trauma of his arrest and the secret meanings of mustache trimming among political radicals during his third day of testimony Thursday.

Andrew Smulian, a 70-year-old, white-haired South African, had trouble recounting his interviews with government agents after he and Bout were arrested in a sting operation at a conference room at the Sofitel hotel in Bangkok, Thailand.

“I was in a rather traumatic state when that conversation took place,” Smulian said. “It was scarcely 10 to 15 minutes after being arrested.”

Bout is accused of trying to sell millions of dollars in weapons to confidential informants posing as guerrillas from the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), which the United States calls a terrorist group.

The sting was part of the “Operation Relentless,” a federal quest to arrest Bout, a Russian national whose exploits allegedly inspired the Hollywood movie “Lord of War” and the nonfiction book “Merchant of Death.”Like Bout, Smulian sports a bushy mustache, which became surprisingly relevant to his interactions with the purported FARC militants.

In an email of Dec. 16, 2007, Smulian asked a confidential informant: “For trimming purposes … are your clients to the left or the right?”

Smulian explained that men who trim their mustaches up tend to be “left-leaning or socialist,” whereas those who brush them down generally are conservative.

Although both men trimmed down, Smulian pleaded guilty to conspiring to arm self-described Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries; Bout is fighting identical charges.

For Bout, political convictions could be adjusted as easily as facial hair, according to his attorney Albert Dayan.

Holding transcripts of his post-arrest interviews, Dayan said that Smulian told a Drug Enforcement Administration agent that Bout originally did not want to go along with the arms deal when he heard that the purported clients were FARC militants.

“If the agent wrote it down, it must be so,” Smulian said.

Smulian did not deny that he initially told the DEA agent that Bout engaged in no other arms deals, except with the FARC.

“Again, it’s what the agent had written,” he said.

Waving another defense exhibit, Dayan pressed Smulian about saying that Bout abandoned arms sales because of a “glut in the market.”

Smulian denied making the remarks until he was shown the documents.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors had witnesses explain code names such as “oro blanco,” or “white gold” for cocaine, and the “big vodka store” for Russia.

Dayan emphasized the innocuous aspects of Bout’s business, which did not require such secrecy.

One email, for example, discussed Bout seeking to ship a “load of cashew nuts.”

Smulian agreed that cashew nuts were not a “disguised term” for contraband.

“These were really cashew nuts,” Dayan said.

During combative cross-examination, Dayan questioned Smulian’s testimony that Bout did not do business with drug dealers.

According to Dayan, Bout did not care where the money came from.

Dayan has argued that Bout left the arms business after United Nations sanctions restricted his movements and seized his assets. He claims that Bout may have humored the informants’ request for arms sales, but was prepared only to sell them two cargo planes for $5 million.

In one transcript, Smulian told the informants that they “have to” buy the two cargo planes for the deal to move forward.

Smulian said he meant that the airplane purchase was “not obligatory.”

“I didn’t say ‘got’ to,” Smulian said.

“You said ‘have’ to,” Dayan countered.

Dayan pressed him about the distinction several more times to no avail, until U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin interrupted.

“I think the problem is you said it eight times,” Scheindlin said.

Later, Dayan pointed to a different transcript that has Smulian telling the informants they “must” buy the airplanes.

“I’m not saying ‘must’ as obligatory,” Smulian insisted.

Dayan asked Smulian about a supposed $1 million commission he stood to gain on the plane purchase.

Smulian said he volunteered his work on the planes, and he talked about getting a commission only on arms sales.

During one meeting, the lead informant said he brought $5 million in euros with him, the exact fee Bout requested for the airplanes in a different currency.

Smulian chalked this up to coincidence.

“It’s not even a coincidence,” he added, pointing out that euros were worth far more than dollars.

Smulian finished testifying on Thursday.

Witness testimony in the jury trial resumes today (Friday).”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

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Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Alleged ‘Lord of War’ Viktor Bout Praised YouTube Video on FARC

October 25, 2011
FARC

Courthouse News Service on October 25, 2011 released the following:

“By ADAM KLASFELD

MANHATTAN (CN) – Viktor Bout beamed with excitement as he described an online video showing Columbian guerrillas loading explosives into gas tanks, a confidential informant testified at the suspected arms smuggler’s trial Monday. According to transcripts of secretly recorded conversations, Bout gushed, “Uh, I saw on YouTube, uh, gas tank system. Congratulations! Genius. Genius. Genius.”

The informant, a native of Guatemala, testified that Bout looked “emocional,” or excited, in describing the footage, which prosecutors displayed for jurors.

Bout, a Russian national, allegedly armed dictators, despots and warring factions through arms trades around the world. His exploits are said to be the inspiration for the Hollywood movie “Lord of War,” and were the subject of investigative journalist Douglas Farah’s book, “Merchant of Death.”

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration corralled him in a sting operation using undercover informants posing as members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), a left-wing guerrilla group.

The United States calls the FARC a foreign terrorist organization, giving federal prosecutors jurisdiction for criminal proceedings in the Southern District of New York.

One informant, Carlos Sagastume, has testified for three days about the sting that snared Bout, who maintains that he stopped trading arms long ago to start an air transportation business.

Bout’s secretly recorded conversations with undercover informants in a conference room of Bangkok’s Sofitel hotel undercut that defense.

“It’s not, uh, business, it’s my fight,” Bout said on one tape. “Only hear that I’m, uh, fighting the United States … for 10 to 15 years.”

Bout also gave the informants advice on how to disguise arms sales, Sagastume testified.

When guerrillas arrived at a warehouse, Bout urged them to “load up sacks of flour [and] load up fruit” like a “normal operation,” according to transcripts.

Thai authorities arrested Bout after he allegedly agreed to sell the informants millions of dollars in weapons.

As prosecutor Brendan McGuire wrapped up direct examination Monday, defense attorney Albert Dayan grilled Sagastume about the millions of dollars the government has paid him as an informant.

“This is not your first fake FARC case?” Dayan asked.

“Sí, sí,” Sagastume replied, agreeing it was not.

He said the other case involved a man who was later convicted of conspiring to sell weapons to the FARC.

Unlike Bout, that defendant provided specifications for the weapons, wired two down payments for them, and examined the merchandise before being arrested, Sagastume said.

Dayan pressed Sagastume to agree that Viktor Bout never actually gave the informants a “single bullet.”

After the defendant in the last “fake FARC case” was convicted, Sagastume received an additional $7 million from the U.S. State Department, Dayan said.

Sagastume denied that the government’s payment affected his testimony in either case.

“I didn’t know the amount [the government would give] or what they were going to do,” Sagastume said through an interpreter.

The DEA has paid Sagastume $200,000 for the Bout case.

“I don’t know if they’re going to pay me more,” he said.

When asked if he was “natural at improvising and exaggerating,” Sagastume partly agreed.

“Not at exaggerating,” he said. “Natural at improvising, perhaps, yes.”

His cross-examination continues today (Tuesday).”

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Daniel Barrera-Barrera, Javier Fernandez-Barrero, and Orlando Fernandez-Barrero Indicted in a Superseding Indictment on Federal Drugs Charges

September 14, 2011

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on September 12, 2011 released the following:

“Three High-Level Colombian Narcotics Traffickers Indicted

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division; John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office; and Michael Shea, Acting Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), announced the unsealing of a superseding indictment against Daniel Barrera-Barrera, 42, a/k/a “Loco Barrera,” Javier Fernandez-Barrero, 43, and Orlando Fernandez-Barrero, 45, both collectively known as “Los Gorditos.” Two of the three were arrested; Barrera-Barrera remains at large. Colombian officials recently announced a $2.7 million reward for the capture of Daniel Barrera-Barrera, whom Colombian authorities describe as one the “most wanted” individuals n Colombia.

The superseding indictment alleges that the three defendants conspired to manufacture and distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine knowing that the cocaine would be unlawfully imported into the United States. The superseding indictment also charges that Daniel Barrera-Barrera conspired to import cocaine into the United States. If convicted, the defendants each face a possible maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

On February 11, 2011, U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer announced the creation of the BACRIM prosecution unit within the Narcotics Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, specifically dedicated to dismantling emerging Bandas Criminales in Colombia. This is the first such unit in the United States specifically designed to target the emerging BACRIMs. The prosecution announced today is part of the BACRIM initiative. Including the defendants announced today, more than 100 BACRIM leaders and associates have been indicted by the Southern District of Florida. In addition, just last week, at a joint press conference in Colombia with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Attorney General Viviane Morales, Ferrer announced two additional BACRIM prosecutions: Operation Under the Sea and Operation Seven Trumpets, resulting in charges against 56 defendants in six separate federal cases.

“This indictment marks another success in our efforts to dismantle the emerging BACRIMs. It is the culmination of a significant long-term law enforcement investigation,” said United States Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer. “We will work tirelessly and commit our efforts to dismantling these narcotics trafficking organizations.”

“The arrests announced today exemplify coordinated, multi-national law enforcement efforts reaching into the highest levels of a drug trafficking organization’s leadership,” said Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge for DEA Miami Field Division. “The DEA will continue these joint efforts and maintain our sights on those who most damage our communities, whether from within or outside the geographic boundaries of the United States.”

“Drug kingpin Daniel Barrera-Barrera remains one of Colombia’s most wanted criminals,” said John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Miami. “His indictment, along with Javier and Orlando Fernandez-Barrero, has significantly disrupted their criminal enterprise which is responsible for distributing tons of cocaine into the U.S. and other countries.”

“Transnational Criminal Organizations are a direct threat to the national security of the United States,” said Michael Shea, Acting Special Agent in Charge of ICE HSI in Miami. “The combined efforts of ICE Homeland Security Investigations and our law enforcement partners are designed to disrupt and dismantle these illicit organizations.”

On March 2, 2010, the United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) designated Barrera-Barrera as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficker (SDNT) due to his significant role in international narcotics trafficking. According to OFAC, Barrera-Barrera operates primarily in the eastern plains of Colombia, between Bogota and the Venezuelan border, and maintains a partnership with the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia), a narco-terrorist organization identified by the President as a kingpin pursuant to the Kingpin Act in 2003.

The charges announced today are part of “Operation Splinter Cell,” an ongoing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation led by DEA. The principal mission of the OCDETF program is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking, weapons trafficking and money laundering organizations, and those primarily responsible for the nation’s illegal drug supply.

Mr. Ferrer commends the outstanding investigative efforts of the DEA, FBI and ICE-HSI, as well as the Colombian Fiscalia General and the Colombian National Police. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Fels.

An indictment is only an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Three FARC Guerillas Convicted in Manhattan Federal Court of Taking a U.S. Citizen Hostage

June 21, 2011

U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of New York on June 21, 2011 released the following press release:

“PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced the convictions of EDILBERTO BERRIO ORTIZ, a/k/a “El Gavilan,” ALEJANDRO PALACIOS RENGIFO, a/k/a “El Gato,” and ANDERSON CHAMAPURO DOGIRAMA, a/k/a “El Tigre,” for hostage-taking and hostage-taking conspiracy in connection with the April 2008 kidnapping of an American Citizen in Panama by the 57th Front of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (“FARC”), a U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization. The defendants were found guilty on June 20, 2011, by United States District Judge JED S. RAKOFF following a bench trial based on stipulated facts. They were arrested in Colombia in December of 2009 and extradited to the United States in late 2010 and early 2011. After a prior hearing in the case, Judge RAKOFF ruled that the defendants were precluded as a matter of law from presenting a defense of duress to the charges.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney PREET BHARARA said: “For ten months that must have seemed like a lifetime for him and his family, an American citizen was held captive by the FARC, not knowing if he would live or die. The FARC will stop at nothing to finance their terrorist activities, and this case underscores this Office’s continued commitment to working with all our law enforcement partners, both here and abroad, to prosecute those who would do harm to Americans.”

According to the Indictment unsealed on September 28, 2009, other court documents, and testimony and exhibits from the hearing and trial:

The FARC was formed in 1964 and is structured as a military organization, with approximately 10,000 armed guerillas organized into seven “blocs,” 68 numbered “Fronts” (including the 57th Front), nine named “Fronts,” and four urban “militias.” It is dedicated to the violent overthrow of Colombia’s democratically-elected government and has been designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States Department of State.

The 57th Front operates in the territory within Colombia’s Choco Department, which borders Panama. It supports the FARC’s terrorist activities through narcotics trafficking and kidnapping for ransom, including the kidnapping of Americans and other foreign nationals.

On April 4, 2008, at the direction of 57th Front leadership, an American citizen was kidnapped in Panama City, Panama. ORTIZ, RENGIFO, and DOGIRAMA guarded the victim while he was held for ransom at a FARC jungle camp for approximately ten months. The ransom was demanded from the victim’s relatives in the United States, who were told they would never see him alive again if the ransom was not paid. The victim was released in February 2009, after a member of his family paid the ransom.

Although the charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison, the U.S. has given assurances to the Government of Colombia that the defendants will not receive life sentences. ORTIZ, RENGIFO, and DOGIRAMA are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge RAKOFF on October, 24, 2011.

Mr. BHARARA praised the investigative work of the FBI’s Extraterritorial Hostage Taking Squad in Miami, the FBI attaché in Panama and Colombia, the DEA’s New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force, the Narco-Terrorism Group of the DEA’s Bogota Country Office, the DEA’s Panama City Country Office, the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, and the Department of Justice’s National Security Division. Mr. BHARARA also thanked Colombian Navy, the Colombian National Police, the Colombia Attorney General’s Office, and the Panamanian National Police for their assistance in the investigation.

The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys REBECCA M. RICIGLIANO and JEFFREY A. BROWN are in charge of the prosecution.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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